LA County orders healthcare workers to get flu shots

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A flu shot being administered. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

A flu shot being administered. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles County’s top public health official today ordered all healthcare personnel in acute care hospitals and other licensed medical facilities to get a flu shot or wear a protective mask.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important steps that healthcare personnel can take to protect their patients and themselves from the flu,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding. “Flu vaccines prevent illness among healthcare personnel and there is growing evidence that it reduces the chance of patients, many of whom are at higher risk for flu complications, becoming inflected.”

The mandate applies to all individuals in licensed acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care centers who have direct patient contact or work in patient areas. Facilities in Long Beach and Pasadena are excluded because those cities operate their own public health departments.

If workers, who are offered free shots, are not vaccinated, they will be required to wear a protective mask from Nov. 1 through March 31.

Fielding has the authority under the state health and safety code to issue orders to prevent and control contagious diseases.

Influenza is highly contagious and accounts for up to 200,000 hospitalizations and an average of 24,000 deaths in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and persons with chronic health conditions are especially at risk.

Though several policies encourage flu vaccination among health care personnel, only two-thirds of U.S. healthcare workers were vaccinated during the 2011-12 flu season.

“Our goal is to close the gap between the current vaccination rate and our national standard of 90 percent, and this mandate offers our best chance to achieve this,” Fielding said.

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